In the 1990s, the museum saw a flurry of new exhibits, publications, and events under the leadership of Executive Director Marsha Ann “Shan” Rankin. Starting in 1990, the museum began raising funds through a reformatted Heritage Ranch Gala and through the Heritage Brickwalk campaign, called Written in Stone. In 1994, the museum finished building the Heritage Courtyard connecting the renovated Annex to the 1910 Jail and its North Wing. Planning and fundraising began for a new museum building. In 1991, the museum held its first “Living History Day”, a large community-wide event with historical crafts demonstrators. Three years later came the first annual “Día de los Muertos” altar exhibit and celebration. 

Filling the new special exhibits gallery in the Museum Annex were several innovative exhibits including “To the Halls of Montezuma: Soldiering in the Mexican War”, which was the largest exhibition about the U.S. – Mexico War up to that time; “Rio de Palmas: Spanish Beginnings on the Lower Rio Grande 1500-1750”, in conjunction with the Columbus Quincentennial; and “Borderlands: the Heritage of the Lower Rio Grande Through the Art of José Cisneros”, an exhibition of the El Paso artist’s original works in the museum’s permanent collection. A book of the same title, featuring the entire collection, was published by the museum.

Parents and children celebrating the Hidalgo County Historical Museum’s 20th Birthday with the breaking open of a piñata, 1990. 

Development Officer Lynne Beeching and Executive Director Shan Rankin posed in 1991 with a mannequin during the set-up of “To the Halls of Montezuma: Soldiering in the Mexican War 1846-1848”. 

Exhibit curator Tom Fort posed with General Antonio López de Santa Anna’s dress uniform (originally recovered by Captain Jack Hays’ Texas Rangers in Jalapa, Mexico in 1847) during the set-up of “To the Halls of Montezuma: Soldiering in the Mexican War 1846-1848” in 1991. 

Governor of Tamaulipas, Manuel Cavazos Lerma, presented an engraved brick to be placed in the Hidalgo County Historical Museum’s Heritage Brickwalk, early 1990s. 

Ribbon-cutting ceremony marking the opening of the Heritage Courtyard in 1994. Cutting the ribbon, from left to right: Museum trustees Sonia Perez and Danny Butler, Edinburg mayor Joe Ochoa, Trustee Emeritus Margaret H. McAllen, and architect for the project Danny Boultinghouse. 

This wagon, used at La Reforma Ranch, had been given to Jimmy McAllen by fellow rancher Arcadio Guerra several years before. At the 1998 Heritage Ranch Gala held at La Reforma, McAllen, gifted the wagon to the museum to honor the century old friendship between the Guerra and McAllen families. 

Actors preparing to perform in HCHM’s Río de Palmas theatre, 1995. 

Couples dancing at the 1998 Heritage Ranch Gala at La Reforma Ranch.

Texas First Lady Laura Bush reading to a group of school children in front of the “Homefront: World War II on the Rio Grande” exhibit, 1999. 

School tour in the hanging room of the 1910 Jail, mid-1990s. 

Mariachis playing at the opening of the “Borderlands: The Heritage of the Lower Rio Grande Through the Artwork of José Cisneros” exhibit, late-1990s. 

Staff of the Hidalgo County Historical Museum in the mid-1990s. From left to right: Tom Fort, Joe Hernández, Danny Garcia, Marisela Saenz, Shan Rankin, Kathryn Ellison, Lynne Beeching, Delfina Lopez, Oliver Franklin, and David Mycue. 

To view more “Golden Memories,” please visit here.

Photographs: Margaret H. McAllen Memorial Archives

Exhibit: Archivist Kelly Francis-Love; Archival Assistant Luna Galván; Archival Assistant Susie Mathews; Associate Education Officer Joseph Fox; Senior Historian Tom Fort; Development Officer Lynne Beeching; Chief Executive Officer Francisco Guajardo, Ph. D.; Programs and Events Officer René Ballesteros; Programs and Events Assistant Anna Garrigos-Hervert

Contributors: Communications Officer Pamela Morales de Hendricks, Communications Assistant Santiago Alanís, Communications Assistant José Antonio Peña, Cindy Us, Rachel Amaya, Adel Hussein, and Mark Trejo

Thanks to our Golden Partner, and first Corporate Donor, for generously supporting our 50th anniversary.